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Michelle’s Story (Endometrial Cancer, Lung Cancer)

Michelle's Story Endometrial CancerI had been having female problems for the last 4 plus years. I thought I was pregnant at the age of 40 for the first time because I had not had a period for two months. I took a pregnancy test, and two day later started my period. It lasted for 4 weeks. So I finally went to see a gynecologist.
This is the family history that I gave her;

Father’s Side:
Father died, T-Cell Lymphoma / Grandfather died, brain cancer

Mother’s Side:
Grandmother died, ovarian cancer/ Great Aunt died ovarian cancer / Great Aunt died ovarian cancer / Mother’s first cousin survivor ovarian cancer / Great Aunt Breast Cancer Survivor.

She performed a pap and said that one of my ovaries felt funny and sent me in for blood work and an ultrasound on my ovaries. The pap showed nothing unusual. The ultrasound showed that I had a cyst on one of my ovaries, and she said the blood work had nothing abnormal. For the next 3-5 years I continued to go to this doctor with the same complaints, but the periods were getting further apart and lasting 4 to 8 weeks long. On my last visit to this doctor, she told me that I had been abnormal for so long that abnormal was now normal for me at the age of 44.

In July of 2011, I went to see my family doctor for a few minor grips; hair thinning, tired all the time, etc… and I just happened to mention my problem periods to HIM and he looked at me funny and asked if I wanted a second opinion. I SAID YES!

Two weeks later, I had just one office visit with my new hero Dr. Bowersox of the Cleveland Clinic. She has never performed a pap on me. She listened to me. She did bloodwork again and found out that I am postmenopausal and should not be having a period at all at the age or 45. She ordered another ultrasound that looked at my uterus and showed the lining didn’t look quite right. So then she called me in for a biopsy. OHHHH, that hurt. No one prepared me for that one.

Cleveland Clinic have a wonderful thing called ‘My Chart’ where you sign on for test results on blood work, ultrasounds, anything non-upsetting. I kept waiting for my results to post on My Charts, but they never posted. Then my new gynecologist’s assistant calls me, saying she would like me to come in to discuss the biopsy results and my options. OK, I should have thought, ‘Hmmmm, that sounds kind of ominous’ but no. So I left work and went to the appointment by myself. I was informed that I had endometrial cancer and would have to have a radical hysterectomy. My world collapsed.

Five days after that, I am sitting at the Cleveland Clinics Oncology Department talking to an oncology gynecologist surgeon with my head spinning, trying to stay in control of what little I still have control over. Which I have to say did not seem like a lot right then.

Surgery was scheduled for Sept 23, 2011.

Two weeks after the surgery, I was told that I was now ‘cancer free’. A board of 15 Oncologist review my test results and all agreed that I was ‘cancer free’.  Those were the best words that Kenny and I had ever heard. I cried all the way home!!!! YAY me, right?

I would have never thought that the recovery would be so terrible. Worst 6 weeks of my life.

After see the family history the genealogist at the Cleveland Clinic, she asked if she could do a blood test to see if any of this was passed down through generations. And guess what, I was diagnosed with LYNCH SYNDROME. This syndrome means that I have a very high percentage rate of getting: colon, stomach, batter, melanoma, ovarian and uterine (last two really don’t count anymore, seeing as mine are gone now). It came from my mother’s side of the family and my sisters could also have the syndrome. As of yet none of us have been tested.

Life goes on and my body healed.

Now let us move on to 2012.

Toward the end of January 2012 I had a really bad cold and could not breathe, so I went to the doctor for cough syrup or something to help with the cold. My normal doctor was not in so I went and saw a substitute doctor. After listening to my lungs, she told me that she wanted me to get and lung x-ray because my right lung sounded strange and she thought that I might have pneumonia. They used the x-ray that I had for my pre-op from my hysterectomy for comparison.

The same day she called and order me a CAT scan (a medical imaging procedure which utilizes computer-processed X-rays to produce tomographic images or ’slices’ of specific areas of the body) of that lung because there a suspicious spot in my right lung that showed in the x-ray and the pre-op x-ray taken the year before and referred me to a specialized (lung) doctor. This doctor sent me to have a PET scan (it’s a nuclear medicine imaging technique that produces a three-dimensional image or picture of functional processes in the body. The system detects pairs of gamma rays emitted indirectly by a positron-emitting radionuclide (tracer), which is introduced into the body on a biologically active molecule. Three-dimensional images of tracer concentration within the body are then constructed by computer analysis. In modern scanners, three dimensional imaging is often accomplished with the aid of a CT X-ray scan performed on the patient during the same session, in the same machine). Which means that if you have cancer, those cells will glow brightly on the scans.

And yes, you guessed it. My lung and the lymph nodes around my heart glow pretty brightly and the doctor orders a biopsy on my right lung. The spot is in such a bad place that they have to do a needle biopsy through the chest wall with me wide awake. It’s a very scary procedure to have while you are awake. They really should knock you out. Surprisingly, very little pain was associated with the procedure. The result from the biopsy was cancer again. So when I was told that I was ‘cancer free’ last year, I had lung cancer that was missed.

Now I am referred to an oncologist and thoracic surgeon. The oncologist sends me for a MRI (is a medical imaging technique used in radiology to visualize internal structures of the body in detail. MRI makes use of the property of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) to image nuclei of atoms inside the body), to make sure that the rest of my body is ‘free’ of cancer.

I went to see the oncologist and he ordered a biopsy on the lymph nodes around my heart and sent me to see the surgeon. The biopsy was set for March 21st and if the heart was okay, surgery on March 23rd, and that was exactly 6 months to the day that my hysterectomy was performed.

Thanks God the heart was okay. So Friday the 23rd my mother, my sweetie, two of my sisters, my niece and I load up and off the surgery we go. I woke up in intensive care in so much pain I could not move, and the epidural in my back was not working. I didn’t know any better until the next morning when I was told that I should be having no pain. I was released from the hospital four days later. A week later, I had to go to for my post-op visit and you know what they told me? Ms. Clark you are ‘cancer free’. I just kind of looked at my sweetie like ‘I’ve heard that before’, and it did not hold the same cry worthy emotions that it did the first time. I almost asked how many people were on this oncology team that came to the conclusion that I am now ‘cancer free’.

Recovering from this operation was nothing compared to the first surgery. I was back at work in 10 days after I came home from the hospital.

Now physically I’m recovered, but mentally I was a real mess for a long time. I was scared to leave my house except go to work, because I thought that I had enough against me, and to get on the roads and trust other drivers to allow me to get home safely was daunting. I could not concentrate on anything. I felt like I was sitting around waiting to die. I just could not believe that the cancer was gone. I guess I still wait for it to show its ugly head again. I am now seeing a therapist to help me get through all of this stuff that I am going through.

Now I am trying to take back my life. I am still a little obsessed, but it is not all consuming now. I read something on the ‘Fight Like a Girl’ Facebook page that said, ‘I Simply Decided to be Happy Again’, and I am trying to live by those words.

Submitted 8-23-2012

This story is intended to convey a personal experience and, because every person’s experience is unique, should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.

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  1. Kim Cox

    And you continue to, “Fight Like A Girl”
    Much love to you sister!

  2. Margaret Meadows

    hi Michelle I didnt realise just how bad things were for you, you have done amazingly well, you really are an inspiration, sending you loads of hugs Margaret xxxx

  3. Robin Hurst

    Michelle, I just have to tell you how proud I am to say you are my sister!! You are the strongest person I know!! I love you and I am so proud of you!!! FIGHT LIKE A GIRL!!!

  4. PEGI

    I relate to the frustration and fear that these doctors who act like God can be wrong because they have been. Also the sadness and feeling like I’m out here on a limb, alone having to be proactive about my own healthcare when I’m so sick and vulnerable, still have resentments left there. I’ll pray for you. Love, PEGI, a kindred spirit, keep up the fight woman!

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